Our backs are prone to becoming rounded and hunched due to so much time spent sitting. The back-arch stretch will effectively open your back to counterbalance the rounding. You will also feel a nice stretch across your chest.
Tight chest muscles are a contributing factor to rounded shoulders. The tightness is caused by over-lengthened back muscles leading to short, tight chest muscles.
If this stretch feels like it is aggravating your lower back, I strongly suggest leaving it out of your stretching routine. Check with a health professional such as a physiotherapist, personal trainer, or Pilates teacher before you continue with this movement. They may be able to modify the movement so it feels good or offer one that works for your body.
Lie face down on a soft surface or cushioned mat. Bring your feet in toward your bottom by bending your knees. Wrap your hands over the bridge of each foot. If you can’t reach your feet, use a towel or a resistance exercise band like Thera-Band.
Inhale as you press your feet into your hands (or towel) to help you extend your body upward. Exhale.
You will feel a stretch across your chest, entire back, and even the front of your thighs.
Avoid looking up to the ceiling, as this will put pressure on your neck.
Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat two times.
It is important to stretch to about 70 percent of your limit. This will prevent overstretching or pulling a muscle while stretching. Be gentle and patient with your body.
Keep your breath flowing evenly while you stretch. This will help your body to relax into the position instead of resisting it.
If the back-arch stretch is too intense for you, try doing it one leg and arm at a time. This will gently start to open up your back and eventually allow you to progress into the complete stretch.
I don’t recommend doing this movement before warming up. Instead, practice this stretch at the middle or end of your workout. Stretching is always more effective when your core temperature is lifted.
Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.
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